I grew up in a loving, supportive, non-Christian family. I was told about the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministry while I was in high school. When I first heard the gospel of Jesus, I told my coach that they needed to write a book about this. He looked at me and said: "Jim, they did, and it is called the Bible." I did not know.
I studied the Bible they gave me and attended church for a year to examine if what they told me was true. Afterward, I repented of my sins and professed my faith in Jesus the summer before my senior year in high school. I was in love with Jesus and started attending church, bible studies, and growing in the disciplines of faith.
I will never forget when my mom came into my room soon after my conversion. I was playing the only Christian album I could find: Tom Netherton singing the Gospel Hymns. Tom was a regular singer on the Lawrence Welk show. My mom entered my room and saw me on my knees singing a hymn with tears in my eyes. She left my room and told my father, "I understand him listening to rock and roll, but I don't know what to do with him listening to Lawrence Welk."
My parents thought I had joined some crazy cult that included the Lawrence Welk singers. I was not alone. Mark 3:20-21 tell us, "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'"
Jesus' family decided he had indeed gone out of his mind with this "Messiah stuff" and that they needed to take charge of him. Jesus' family was concerned for him,
The family may be the most challenging place to witness Jesus. To be the first or only believing Christian may go against the family tradition. Our faith may come across as a criticism of how others have lived their lives. Our passion may be misunderstood and be overwhelming for others. Family members require the most patience, love, and grace. Remember that Christ's family rejected and ridiculed him. Jesus knows what you face by trying to be a witness for him in your own family.
You see God's heart for the family when you read the Bible. Jesus's ministry was announced by the child of Mary's relative Elizabeth, John the Baptist. We see that Andrew's first thing was to find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus. We read the Old Testament stories of families: Moses and Aaron, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah, Joseph and his brothers. The Scriptures are full of references to families and their relationship with God.
In Acts, we read about Paul and his nephew. "But when the son of Paul's sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul." (Acts 23:16)
This is the only biblical reference to Paul's family. Some theologians believe that Paul's family disowned him when he became a Christian. Paul wrote of having suffered the loss of everything for Christ (Philippians 3:8). Paul's nephew, who is never named, visited Paul in prison and helped his uncle. We do not know if any of Paul's relatives were converted later, but I believe he prayed for their salvation.
I have seen my parents, who both thought I was crazy with this Jesus thing, come to faith in Jesus. I have also seen many other family members still think I am a little extreme with Jesus. I have faithfully prayed every week for my immediate family's salvation, life, and health.
I remember rejoicing when my sister's son Jimmy was born. I began to pray for his salvation every Thursday of his life. When I first shared the gospel with him, he thought I was crazy. I continued to share the gospel when I performed his wedding, but I could see that the gospel did not penetrate his heart. But I kept praying and hoping that the Lord would lead someone else to share the gospel with him.
After 35 years of praying, my prayers were answered. I took him out for dinner one night and asked him this question again "If you were to stand before God and He asked you why I should let you into my Heaven, what would you say?" But his answer was different.
Here is his story:
I was raised Catholic and went to Lutheran schools, but I just took it as information and never put His word in my heart. I lived a life that was very self-centered and self-pleasing. After high school, I only prayed if I wanted something, basically treating God as a genie to grant my will. Eventually I walked through life existing, but never truly enjoying it to its fullest.
I would go to work and come home to my wife and dogs. At 26, I experienced a traumatic brain injury and was put in a medically-induced coma for two weeks. I was in pain most days, depressed, and anxious. I drank daily to numb the pain and anxiety. I was completely lost and didn't care about anything or anyone. I just existed, and eventually, my wife filed for divorce. I had no income and had to move in with my mom at 32. I was at my lowest point in life and felt utterly worthless.
A friend of mine invited me to his church at this time. The church was so welcoming, and I needed to see some kind faces. I kept going every Sunday and listening to the sermons. I could feel God slowly opening my heart to care again. He was patient and kind with my stubborn and questioning mind, but a conversation started between us.
I could take all my pain, anxiety, worries, faults and lay them down before him, and He accepted me as I was but didn't leave me there. I realized that through His great mercy, Christ died so that I may personally come before God. The veil that my sin and shame made was gone because of His sacrifice. So, I may go to Him, and He would take me in His loving arms and call me His child.
Through this time, I was able to go back to work and get my apartment which I thought would never happen. I started running sound and lights at church on Sundays and could feel God showing me the path He created for me. I will continue to learn more of His never-ending mercy and grace so I may share the love and forgiveness with others. I will cherish the privilege of showing God's glory on earth, and I pray others can experience His mercy and grace in their lives. Several years later and I laugh and smile at how far God has taken me and look forward to the future of my life here and then my eternity with Him.
I will never forget when I met my nephew for dinner, and he told me his story of salvation. With tears in my eyes, I shared with him that I prayed for his salvation every Thursday of his life. He responded with the same emotions and thanked me for faithfully praying for his salvation when he had no interest in Jesus.
If your family doesn't appreciate your faith, take heart. Jesus faced the same thing in His family. But remember, the Bible is full of stories about families and their faith in God. May you continue to pray for the salvation of your family and remember never to give up. My mom and dad professed faith in Jesus and eventually understood my teenage preoccupation with the Lawrence Welk singers.